Tommy Goebel is the Player of the Month of December

Tommy Goebel is the Player of the Month of December

11 Jan 2012 | Davide Tuniz

American forward is the star, along with teammate Kevin DeVergilio, of the underdog Pontebba's amazing campaign in Italian Serie A and the winner of European Player of the Month for December. made an exclusive interview.

Aquile Pontebba, a club from the small town in East Italy, near the Slovenian border,  was on the verge of disappearance last summer and on the eve of Italian Serie A start, nobody had an idea who would dress the black and white jersey. Four months later Aquile (Hawks) are the sensation of the League, on the third place behind the big powers Val Pusteria and Bolzano but ahead of champion Asiago and ambitious Renon or Valpellice. The main weapon for the American coach Tom Pokel is his countryman forward Tommy Goebel, 14 goals and 40 assists in 32 games, Serie A top scorer along with teammate Kevin DeVergilio. Our readers voted him as European Player of the Month for December and spoke with him.

Eurohockey: Tommy, congratulations from for your success in our pool. Your name was the most voted surpassing star candidates as Pallfy, Radulov and Mårtensson, but maybe you aren't so famous among hockey fans in Europe, can you quickly introduce yourself and your career so far?
Goebel: Thanks. I grew up in Parma, Ohio a suburb of Cleveland and as a kid played for the Cleveland Barons. After high school I went on to play four years of college hockey. This is my fourth professional year, and the second season I have spent playing in Europe.

EH: Your first experience of European hockey was a couple of seasons ago in Germany: why did you decide to come back and what is the difference compared to your season at Bietigheim?
Goebel: After a year in Germany that didn't go exactly as I planned I thought it would be a great time to come back to Europe to give it another chance.  Bietigheim was a large adjustment for me both in style of hockey and life.  This year I knew I would be able to get my Italian citizenship so Italy seemed the clear choice. I also knew more of what to expect, and what I needed to do to make it a smoother transition. 

EH: Until end of August hockey fans doubted to see Aquile Pontebba on ice when season started, but now the team is the Serie A surprise and imports like you, DeVirgilio and Petizian is making the difference: which is Aquile's secret? Which are the team's goals now (maybe the title?) and your personal?
Goebel: As you said, we started as a major underdog, with no pressure to win, we were all able to play our game.  With a late start, we knew we had to work harder to even have a chance and it brought us together as a team.  We have had outstanding goaltending by Petizian which we have built off of all season.  Our team goal right now is to finish in the top four to have a home ice advantage come play offs and win the title.  For me personally, I want to continue to contribute to our team's success all the way to the championship.

EH: Besides 2002-03 at Cleveland Barons in NAHL, this is your best season in scoring, is it your credit or Tom Pokel's style of play?
Goebel: Tom Pokel stresses that our defense will lead to our offense, which has definitely been working for our team.  This system has played a big role in Kevin and my success.

EH: How is your life in Italy? Pontebba is not a megalopolis....
Goebel: My life in Italy is great.  Pontebba may be a small town but the people have been so welcoming, friendly and helpful to my wife and I.  It is in close proximity to many great cities in Italy and Austria and most of all, the food is spectacular.

EH:  Do you wanna say something to all fans that voted for you?
Goebel:  I would like to thank everyone who voted and for the nomination. The fans in Pontebba have been great all season and I would like to thank them for their continued support.  I would also like to thank our coach, general manager and teammates.  Lastly, I would like to thank my family and friends for all their support throughout my career.

Past winners
November 2011 - Robert Kristan
October 2011 - Jakub Petružálek
September 2011 - Tomas Zaborsky
April/May 2011- André Rankel
March 2011 - Martin Ruzicka
February 2011 - Petri Vehanen
January 2011 - Antti Pihlström
December 2010 - Jakub Stepanek
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